It can be a daunting experience when you first look at an IELTS Reading Paper; there is so much text to read and the (at times) very technical vocabulary and jargon that can be involved could cause a panic attack. It might seem to be a mountain to climb to study and retain the amount of vocabulary you need for such an extensive range of topics. It might seem like reading an entire library but just take a look at these tried and tested methods and you should sleep a lot easier.
1. How can I deal with so much text?
It’s a good question but what you need to do is focus on the questions and read to answer them. Practice makes perfect and you can train yourself to focus on the text you need to read to answer the questions. Don’t try and read the whole text straight away, look at the questions first.
2. Get help from the title
Before you do anything else read the title; it will immediately give you an idea of what the article is going to be about. If the title is a question the following article will answer it and that will be the main focus. If the title isn’t a question turn it into one. There could also be subheadings and they will give you further information. Doing this will give you an idea of what you’re going to read about before you read another word.
3. Think about the structure
The texts in the reading paper will be written with the same structure you would use when writing an essay. They will have an introduction and a conclusion with problems/solutions, advantages/disadvantages contained within the body of the text. Looking at the first paragraph and the last paragraph will help you understand the text.
4. Use the Key Words to help you
Identifying the key words is essential. You should by now have an idea of the subject matter so your main focus now is on the type of information you need to answer the questions. For example if ‘not’ is in the statement they will be looking for a negative, quantity indicators such as ‘few’ or ‘all’ will be important in answering the question and time references such as ‘already’ will give you a clue as to whether the answer is going to be a future or past event. You might dismiss these words as unimportant but they will help you get the information you need to answer the questions.
5. Use synonyms
Locating parallel words in the text and the questions is really important. Make sure you build a great collection of synonyms during your studies. Finding the synonyms every time you learn a new word will grow your vocabulary and prepare you well for the reading paper.
6. True, False or Not Given?
The ‘Not Given’ option makes these questions difficult for most students. Turning the statement into a question will help you decide if the text answers the question, contradicts it or doesn’t actually give any information relating to the question. If the statement contains proper nouns, like the names of people or place names, this will help you pinpoint the relevant part of the text more easily.
Use these tips to help you get the best possible marks for the Reading Paper. Good luck!
Written by Gill Balfour, Editor and Counsellor Liaison